This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Recipe Box: Flour-Free Cornbread

I grew up on Jiffy cornbread, which is really just corn-flavored bread.  When a lot of folks list cornbread recipes, they go for this classic flavor by adding a mix of gluten-free flours, gums, and sugar.  Turns out, you don't need any of that.  Classic southern cornbread is simple, slightly crumbly, and naturally gluten-free.

Ingredients:

2 Cups cornmeal*
2 Cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup fat: butter, bacon grease, or vegetable shortening


I use a 12" cast-iron skillet for this, but you can use a 9x11 baking dish instead if you don't have one. 

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit

Melt the fat in the microwave, and grease the skillet or baking dish well

Combine all the ingredients and pour into the skillet or baking dish; let it rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as the oven takes to pre-heat (resting makes it fluff up and soaks the cornmeal)

Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, and the edges brown and pull away from the pan a bit

Let cool until it is warm to the touch before serving, with lots of butter and honey, or crumble and let it stale to make cornbread dressing.

If you are really acclimated to the sweet corn bread you get in restaurants, you can add 1/4 cup of honey to the mix with an extra tablespoon of corn meal to balance liquids and solids.  

*Corn products are often a cross-contamination risk for gluten because of how it is stored and processed.  Make sure you use a gluten-free labeled brand.  In the Southeast U.S., we use the Publix store brand yellow cornmeal without a problem. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Elimination Recipe Box: Creamy Mushroom Soup

The recipe is based on the food sensitivity elimination diet we are doing, and uses up the safe chicken base created from the Crock Pot Chicken recipe.  If you don't start with the chicken, it might be difficult to find an elimination-diet-friendly chicken broth or stock, so you may need to wait until you have finished the diet first.

Ingredients:

2 cups chicken broth (from crock pot chicken recipe)
4-6 cups fresh mushrooms, half chopped very fine, the other half sliced into bite-size pieces.
1/4  cup finely diced onions
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (use whole milk if dairy allowed)

In a medium pot, cook mushrooms in a tablespoon either of skimmed fat from the cooled chicken drippings or olive oil, until water is mostly evaporated
Add onions and cook until starting to brown
Add chicken broth and cook for 10 minutes
Remove from heat, let sit 5 minutes, then whisk in milk

If casein is allowed, top with a light shredding of Parmesan cheese.  

Elimination Recipe Box: Crock Pot Chicken

The recipe is based on the food sensitivity elimination diet we are doing, and has the bonus of producing a safe chicken stock for other recipes, such as soups and stews. 

4 chicken leg quarters
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
1/4 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (use butter if you are not sensitive to dairy or casein)

Chop veggies into chunks  Place chicken meaty-side down in a crock pot and layer veggies, herbs, and oil or butter over the top.

Run the crockpot on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8, until chicken is fork-tender.  Add two hours if starting with frozen chicken.  Add a few tablespoons of water if needed to maintain moisture;you should have at least a cup of liquid in the bottom of the pot when you are finished.  

Remove chicken and veggies to serving bowl. 
Pour remaining liquid through a fine sieve into a storage container (jar, tupperware, etc.). 
Rinse the crock pot with about 1/2 cup of water and pour through sieve into same container. 
Store drippings in fridge for up to three days or in freezer for several months.  To add more liquid to container, first remove the layer of fat that forms at the top of the cooled drippings. 

The leftover meat is delicious served cold and shredded on a green salad the next day as a packed lunch. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Product Review: Udi Gluten-Free Granola Bars

Featured Product Reviews

I receive no compensation from the companies reviewed, nor do I have any relationship with them.  Gluten-free status is based on information as of the time of writing from the Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide, parent company websites, and personal experience.  Please verify gluten status of products regularly, as formulations change (the information source is listed in the review when possible.)

 UDI's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I should have known, based on previous experience.  But the pretty image on the box and the lure of convenience food for school suckered me in. 

Udi's once again brings all the quality you'd expect from gluten-free offerings circa 1995.  The flavor and consistency of lightly toasted recycled paper pulp, with a hint of delicately sweetened, semi-hardened library paste.  Exactly five chocolate-colored wax bits were strategically placed on top.  Three whole almonds, which, I am happy to report, were not quite rancid.

I'm not sure how they are still getting away with charging so much for sub-par gluten-free specialty foods when every month a new company starts offering tasty new GF options.  Maybe they're not.  At any rate, do yourself a favor and buy Kind bars instead; they're comparably priced and much more delicious. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Elimination Recipe Box: Smooth Curried Vegetable Soup

This is an easy way to have a soup, sauce, etc. you can keep in the fridge for up to a week and re-heat to serve with almost anything.  The recipe is based on the food sensitivity elimination diet we are doing at the moment, which is why I started with online recipes for curried carrot soup, realized we can't use any commercial vegetable or chicken stock, and started winging it.  It's a great way to pick up some nutrients you might be missing. 

The "recipe" is not just basic; it's forgiving. Hate mushrooms?  Leave them out.  Love asparagus?  put it in.  The ingredients I used are not necessarily the ones you should use.

Throw in a can or two of full-fat coconut milk for a really diabolically tasty cream soup.

Ingredients:

3-4 large carrots, chopped into 1/2" pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, chopped, stems removed
6 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup diced onion (or 1 large shallot)
3 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin*
1/2 tsp ground coriander*
1/2 tsp turmeric*
1/2 tsp mustard seed*
1 tsp dried ginger (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh)*

(If you're not sensitive to or eliminating nightshade plants, you can substitute 1 tablespoon curry powder for these ingredients)

Recipe:
  • Heat large pot on medium-high heat
  • Add olive oil and wait until it moves like water
  • Add onion, garlic, and fresh ginger if using (don't add dried at this point)
  • Cook until onion is translucent and starting to brown
  • Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT THE BAY LEAVES and enough water to barely cover them.  
  • Bring to a simmer, then cook, covered for 15 minutes or until root vegetables can be pierced easily with a fork.
  • Set pot in sink of cold water to start cooling.  Add a few ice cubes to the soup to speed the process, and stir until cool enough to touch without scalding
  • In batches, process soup in blender until smooth
  • Return to stove top and add bay leaves.  Bring back to a simmer.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes.  
  • Serve warm or chilled, or use as a sauce on chicken or fish.  garnish with fresh parsley for a little crunch, or serve over shredded spaghetti squash. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Elimination Recipe Box: Sauteed Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is one of those weird, fun, tasty miracles of biology.  Does it taste like pasta?  Nope.  It tastes like buttery, delicious squash, but without the mushy squash texture.  So it does pair great with whatever you would pair pasta with, but if you don't expect it to BE pasta, you can appreciate the deliciousness that it is. 

Most recipes for cooking the squash call for cutting it in half first.  I can tell you that unless you have a handy-dandy kitchen reciprocating saw, that will be both enormously hard work and a little dangerous.  The good news is that it's entirely unnecessary. 

To cook the squash, simply jab it a dozen times all over with a sharp fork or paring knife to allow it to release steam.  Then place it on a plate or glass pie dish and stick the whole thing in the microwave for 7 minutes.  Use hotpads to roll it over onto the other side, and microwave for another 5 minutes.  If it is a small squash, shave a minute off each of those times.  Leave the door shut, and let it sit for another 10 minutes.

You can also roast it whole in the oven for an hour, if you are microwave-less.  It is done when a knife goes all the way to the center without much resistance.

Continue to use hotpads to handle it, but it should be fairly easy now to slice in half with a large knife.  Scoop the super-stringy, darker threads and seeds from the middle, then use a fork to shred the squash flesh into spaghetti-like strands.  Try a large spoon to scrape the last bits out if they adhere to the rind.

This basic pile of squash shreds will keep in the fridge for 5 days, and re-heats beautifully in the microwave or stovetop.  It's another good option to make on a Sunday and throw together into a quick side dish or packed lunch all week. 

Now for the sauteed squash:

Ingredients (2 large side servings):

Shreds from 1/2 cooked spaghetti squash (about 2-3 cups, loose)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced onion
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley*

*Also try fresh basil and oregano, or add fresh sage while the garlic is cooking, or use a curry spice mix.  

Recipe:

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat
add garlic and onion, and fry until fragrant (30 seconds)
add spaghetti squash
Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until squash is tender (add additional oil if sticking)
Add fresh parsley and cook an additional minute
serve warm